Cultivating Poverty



A staff member from Madonna House asked me how I thought about having a mother whose poverty was so deep. No one had ever asked me this question, so I had no ready answers. How do you live and love someone who in many ways is opposite of you.

My Mom is simple.

For over forty years, she had run a home day care out of her home. She plans on working until – the Lord tells her otherwise. Once she turned 60, she made the decision, one child for each hand, as she often says to anyone who will listen. She teaches the children who are in her care about the birds sitting in the trees; and they listen and know each bird’s song, the many wondrous shapes of the clouds. They stop to smell flowers and, she discusses what colour is on the city bus or the school bus. She knows most of the employees who work at Herb and Spice Shop, where my mom does her groceries. She grew tired of the big groceries stores and just being another customer. She knows the name of each employee, and if there is a new one, give her time because she will learn their name, and use it every chance she gets. If they don’t know her name, they know her by her familiar face.

The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them. ~Gilbert K. Chesterton

Growing up I thought she had the greatest job because she got to work from home. She loves to take photographs of nature, she stops to smell the flowers especially the wild pink roses, the ones that are full of bees humming and buzzing around. She sees the world very differently than I see it. What I see or notice months before, takes her months to see, and in it she sees its simplicity. Each morning after the parent(s) of each child arrive, my mom insists on a hug to start the day. She’s big on letting both the boys currently in her care having lots of time to play. They visit the library and sing songs with Jennifer on Tuesdays, and on Thursday there’s playgroup. The other days there’s grocery shopping, and sometimes they go riding on the city bus.

My mom has always maintained she would never want a big house because then she would have to clean it. But I always point out to her, if she had a big house, she would probably have money to hire a cleaner. She is generous to a fault, and I find as time goes on, she is always trying to find ways in which to give. She doesn’t mind stopping to give money to those asking on the streets. But she keeps her toonies because they pay for her bills.

How is she simple? She just is. In her knowledge of the world, herself, her God, and to those around her. Her poverty comes from a purity of heart that she cultivates the entire day. She delights in His creation. Whether she has her eyes closed seated with her bible underneath her fingers; or as she goes for her morning walk. Smiling to those who pass by her. Even though she doesn’t realize it, she is surrounded by people who live in poverty. Sure, monetarily she makes less than them, but she is abundant in what really matters, and what really and truly turns the world round. She is on a personal mission to learn everything she can from God and without knowing it, she shares it with those who he brings into her life.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it:  do not shun it and call it hard names.  Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage.  Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends.  Things do not change, we change.  Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.  ~Henry David Thoreau


Three Sparrows


This past summer, I began noticing that two or three sparrows would sit in between the rails of my balcony. This absolutely delighted me! I am careful to be slow in my movement and observe them quietly, or I risk scaring them away, and they’ll flutter away back to the safety of the bushes down below on the ground. They sit and fluff their feathers and otherwise look very cute. I would rather them come and visit then have the pigeons swoop down onto my balcony because next thing I know the male will be strutting his stuff to the quiet female, who is trying to go unnoticed by him.


Any reminders of the Christmas will pretty much be receded into the background by the time Monday arrives. It’s the routine and structure that I am needing because my thoughts have become so crazy, I am over analyzing obsessively, and I am gasping for peace to enter into me.

A couple of days after Christmas, we got our first winter storm, and at the end, we were left with 20 cm of snow. Tall snowbanks, slush and a pile of salt at the end of the sidewalks. It’s already January and mentally I am running to greet it despite its cold, damp and windy temperatures.

Most people don’t get the sensitive and quiet ones, and that’s okay. It is because I realized as long as I get it, I don’t mind telling you that yes I had a good Christmas because I did. I used to want others to understand what I went through Christmas but this New Year’s Eve I made a discovery, a discovery of how I experience Christmas is mine. Doesn’t mean I need to share it, and so I won’t. I’ll just make sure that I take care of myself in whatever way I can.

 Back to the Sparrows

I like quiet, cute and unhampering to my situation(s), whatever that may be at the time, but I don’t and can’t control everything that comes into my life. Life is hard, but if I have any choice in the choices then I will choose the sparrows of leisure, who just want to fluff their feathers while they use my balcony for rest.




There’s Always, Always, Always Something To Be Thankful For


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The last couple weeks or so I’ve had some people who have asked me how I am doing, which isn’t new, but normally it’s a quick ‘I’m good.’ There’s not much thought into how I am really. No run down of what I don’t have even though I would like it …. But I have also realized that everything is quiet, I am trying to do what the Lord has asked of me. I am trying to work towards faithfulness in everything.

For over a year or more, I have been aware of my freedom. I don’t know if it’s even a physical feeling, but just the knowledge that I am free. Jesus came to set the captives free. He came because He loves us and in that love is His Mercy which runs through us – if we allow the river to flow through. I am in awe of such a wonderful gift. No pushing away. There’s a tiny smile on my heart because for years, and it didn’t matter where I went I was full of anxiety and fear.

Advent is next Sunday, and I have all my Christmas shopping done and wrapped. I asked my Mom a couple of weekends ago, if she wanted her gifts … of course she refused. We have been discussing what I will make for dessert, who will make the sweet potato fries, and I am hoping there will be gluten-free gravy for the chicken. It’s usually just my Mom and I, and it’s fun to decide what we will eat. Just enough to be satisfied.

At one point or another I have tried to start a gratitude journal or list of sorts in my journal. I discovered that it is better if I allow my heart to reveal what it is grateful for. Sometimes the depth of my thankfulness can’t be written down on paper. Being saturated in His goodness is a peace and a joy filled place, and it doesn’t matter where you find yourself.

Thankfulness are words, but it can also be a way of living, a way to always display the wealth of blessings that has been poured into your life. And not just in words, but from those closest to you, who love you, look out for you and pray for you.